SAMHSA and ONC Work Together to Advance HIT in Behavioral Health

Feb. 5, 2024
The Behavioral Health Information Technology Initiative is launched with the cooperation of SMHSA and ONC to improve health IT in behavioral healthcare settings


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will collaborate to invest over $20 million of SAMHSA funds over the coming three years to improve health IT in behavioral healthcare. The Behavioral Health Information Technology (BHIT) Initiative will help mental health and substance use treatment providers to measure and report on provided care.  

Per an analysis by ONC of American Hospital Association survey data, only 67 percent of psychiatric hospitals had adopted a 2015 Edition-certified EHR (Electronic Health Record), compared to 86 percent of non-federal, general acute care hospitals. Micky Tripathi, Ph.D., and Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon wrote for Health It Buzz, “Health IT adoption among behavioral health providers currently lags behind other providers. This is due in part to their ineligibility to participate in health IT incentive programs….Lack of access to health IT and associated higher-level capabilities and efficiencies (e.g., patient access, notifications, clinical decision support care planning, data exchange, analytics, and reporting) impact behavioral health providers’ ability to provide access to treatment through tools such as telehealth.” Behavioral health is challenged with detailed narrative documentation which can make sharing information with primary care providers difficult.

BHIT will identify behavioral health data sets with SAMHSA’s Substance Use Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services Block Grant (SUPTRS BG) and grantees of the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG). These data sets will be organized via a new USCDI+ (United States Core Data for Interoperability) domain to improve providers' data capture efficiency while reducing costs. “SAMHSA and ONC will coordinate with technology developers and participating providers on how to best include USCDI+ behavioral health data elements in health IT and pilot their use,” Tripathi and Delphin-Rittmon report.

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